I regularly meet Cabinet colleagues to discuss a wide range of matters. I recently met the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to discuss a number of issues relating to the Scottish agriculture sector, and will continue to do so.
Last year, the farming Minister told us that there would be an £18 billion Brexit dividend. He said that farmers would continue to get
“as much support—or perhaps even more”
after Brexit. Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be unacceptable if funding to Scottish agriculture was cut after 2020?
There is no suggestion that funding to Scottish agriculture will be cut, but there is the opportunity to move forward from the constraints of the common agricultural policy, which farmers throughout Scotland have often complained about. We need to seize this opportunity to reshape the support for farming to make it more effective, but to continue to sustain those areas of Scottish farming that need sustaining.
My right hon. Friend is aware that my family are extensive farmers in the Scottish borders. Does he not agree that Brexit presents the United Kingdom with a magnificent opportunity to fashion an agriculture policy that is required not by French farmers, but by British farmers, and will he assure the House that hill farmers in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom will be given proper consideration?
I can absolutely give that undertaking. I hope that, in conjunction with the Scottish Government, we can move forward to shape a new basis of support for Scottish agriculture, especially for those who farm in less-favoured areas. There have been multiple complaints about the operation of the common agricultural policy and its need to take into account farming practices across the continent. We now have the opportunity to have our own support mechanism and we need to work to shape it.
Almost two thirds of the UK’s agriculture exports are to the EU. After what we heard from the Prime Minister yesterday, there is an increasing possibility that we could revert to World Trade Organisation trade rules on exit from the EU. Does the Secretary of State agree with the NFU Scotland, which says that the potential for 20% tariffs as a result of WTO trade rules will be increasingly damaging for the profitability of Scottish agriculture?
The Prime Minister made it clear yesterday that her objective is to achieve the best possible access to the single market, with the minimum of barriers and tariffs. That will be to the benefit of Scottish agriculture. Scottish farmers see the opportunity that leaving the EU provides them, and I am sure that they will seize it and that we will be able to provide the environment in which they will succeed.